Tag Archives: vivisection

Closing Circles

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The penultimate instalment of my autobiography before I revert to my normal blogs

A year after Arthur Thomas’s pardon, a Royal Commission condemned the policeman who’d planted the cartridge, and said Arthur should never have been charged. I sat through the weeks of testimony, crocheting a colourful rug from all the scraps of wool I had, and I think driving the male chauvinists around me quite mad!

I was back home towards the end when Patrick took time off from his office to hear the last stages of the inquiry which was all based on his findings. He rang and said they were being asked to put in a claim for what the investigation had cost them, and Jim Sprott was claiming $150,000. Patrick said it didn’t feel right climbing on this bandwagon of claims… so I told him about the painter Whistler’s damages of a farthing in England when he sued Ruskin for defamation in 1870, and suggested Patrick likewise claim a dollar – otherwise you’ll be written out of the court’s findings, I said.

So he did claim a dollar. Arthur was given a million dollars in compensation, and Patrick was rewarded with an OBE. The following year the Queen presented it to him, at the same time that my daughter received her Gold Medal from the Duke of Edinburgh

While all these dramas were playing out, I resigned as Woman’s Editor of the Star, feeling that the increased attacks and hostility from feminists would lose their sting if I wasn’t there, and the women’s pages might become unmolested!

I took the children to England for a holiday, and when we returned took up writing my columns again, and was commissioned to write several books. I once calculated that fifteen years of writing two columns of a thousand words a week, probably added up to about 780,000 words, and that didn’t include all the articles and interviews I wrote in that time as well. At least half as much again, I suspect.

A column which covered vivisection and the experiments and horrible operations that people like South African heart surgeon Dr Christian Barnard performed on animals, caused huge repercussions. It revived the moribund anti-vivisection society known as SAFE, (Save Animals from Experimentation) and Patrick and I became president and vice-president.

This column also triggered a big meeting of angry doctors at the Medical School at Auckland University where they reportedly discussed: ‘What to do about Valerie Davies’. At the time I had also castigated the practise of every medical student having their own rat to kill – they  bashed it on the table by holding its tail, before dissecting it.

They sent my article to Christian Barnard in South Africa, who’d become a high-living celebrity by then, and he responded by sue-ing me and the Star. The Star cravenly paid up the money he demanded, but I refused, telling my solicitor I’d rather go to jail. The children were devastated, and my son even had tears rolling down his cheeks when I explained what I was doing.

In the event my clever lawyer wrote told Barnard’s solicitor that my defence would be that I’d found all the hideous boasts about making a two headed dog, and the screams of a baboon wrenched from his mate to take his heart for an experiment, in Dr Barnard’s own autobiography, and a TV interview. We heard no more!

I continued writing columns that enraged people, writing of the barbaric treatment of calves in modern farming, to the use of 245T (a dioxin based pesticide) the indiscriminate felling of trees, and other environmental concerns. After a column on climate change and the ozone layer, a university professor wrote a scathing letter to the paper calling me a ‘knee-jerk environmentalist’, while a professor of paediatrics, rang me at home he was so furious when I wrote that babies should never be left to cry as it broke their trust in their parents.

Now all the research into brain function has proved me right. Child psychology preaches the benefits of cuddling and of feel- good pheromones  connecting in the brain, and the dangers of cortisone building up in the brain if babies are left to cry, which leaves them prone to depression and a host of problems as they grow older…

Sometimes, in the rain and misery of the Springbok winter, traipsing in and out to the Royal Commission in the city- an hour’s drive each way- struggling with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, living on willpower, not energy, seeing the miseries of modern farming as I drove past fields with bleak herds of cows deprived of their new calves, stopping the car to untangle desperate goats tied up and used as lawn-mowers on the road-side, I used to wonder what was wrong with me.

Why was I so out of step with everyone and everything? And then I discovered a group in England called Women for Life on Earth, and I knew I wasn’t mad after all, and that my concerns were those of many others too. Knowing this restored my confidence and gave me heart. (This group morphed into the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp, and their historic resistance to nuclear weapons.)

My illness had got worse. I couldn’t bear light, and had tortoise shell rattan blinds on every window as well as curtains, I had difficulty understanding speech and used to exhort the children and my husband to speak clearly. I couldn’t bear any music except formal baroque tunes, and was in constant pain.

Somehow, I kept up with driving the children around, having friends and Patrick’s family to stay, his other four children and their friends for meals, walking the dogs twice a day, cooking decent nutritious food on time, fulfilling numerous speaking engagements – teachers conferences, school prize-givings, parents groups, schools, Rotary and other clubs, even the annual lunch of accountants – to mention a few – writing the columns which generated so much controversy and so many letters to answer, not to mention the dreaded housework. I paid the teenage children to help… my daughter to do the washing, my son to clean the bathrooms.

And at the end of this hard, sad winter we left our dream home in the country, where no-one had waved or spoken to us in over a year, and moved back to town, where friends welcomed us, strangers called in with fruit and flowers and cakes, and we felt we had come home.

A young, unprejudiced and open-minded woman doctor friend dropped in to see me, while I was having an episode of CFS. Mimi introduced me to Re-birthing, a system of connected breathing which was all the rage at that time, and this was a turning point for me. The breathing got me on my feet, and I was now strong enough to become involved with a personal growth group, Self-Transformation, which I helped to establish in this country.

It grew exponentially. This was the early eighties, when groups like EST were breaking down so many barriers, and people all over the world were ready to start their journey towards self-actualisation. Jung was often the starting point, his book and his theme ‘Modern Man in Search of his Soul’ in tune with the new age.

Abraham Maslow, Ken Wilbur, then Dipak Chopra, Jean Houston, Caroline Myss, one after another, names and techniques came crowding into our consciousness, and people like me couldn’t get enough…meditation, yoga, Reiki, shiatsu, rolfing, holotropic breathing, aromatherapy, sweat lodges and other methods of bodywork we explored put us in touch with our emotional blocks and old traumas, and kept us busy for years.

Buddhism, the Essenes, Hawaian Kahunas, Shamanism, gurus from Ram Dass to Sai Baba, Raj Neesh, and the Dalai Lama held many in thrall – though gurus were not for me – and this is only to touch on a few of the influences, techniques and people who influenced my friends and I as we journeyed on. I sold most of my precious things to pay for all this… silver from my first marriage, oriental rugs I’d collected over the years, a precious French provincial table… it was worth it.

It was all a mystery to my husband, who called me a New Age Nutter, which didn’t bother me at all. I tried often to explain what I was doing, and it didn’t matter how often I did, he never understood or remembered.

He had a different journey. He had ten jobs in twenty years, travelling from radio back to newspapers, then magazines to public relations, radio again, magazines, to teaching journalism and back to newspapers, finally becoming editor- in- chief of a group of suburban newspapers when he was in his early seventies. They were years of financial insecurity, when he was badly paid, and I was glad to still have some money from my writing and then the counselling practise that I managed to operate for all those years until I was in my mid-seventies.

In every job he found, pressure would build-up, and he would be unable to see eye- to-eye with his boss, just as he had been so often at the Star. It’s only as I look back that I realise that this was his modus operandi.

He’d come home and I’d sympathise and take on the angst and the anxiety. We moved house often, buying old wrecks which I restored and beautified, each time hoping that by reducing the mortgage or making life easier at home, with less travelling, or some other excuse, it would reduce his stress. It never did.

He had also become obsessed with Japan, and apart from writing books about it, studying its history and customs, and collecting anything Japanese, he became an expert on samurais, Japanese sword-play – kendo and eido- and antique Japanese swords, which were hugely expensive. He was always buying more and more precious ones, as he learned more and more about them, and went to Japan half a dozen times.

As my car fell to pieces, because we couldn’t afford to replace it, he was ‘investing’ he assured me, in his swords, which would pay for our old age, so we didn’t need to save or pay off the mortgage. I believed him.

And so we came to the end of our roads. As Paul Coelho wrote: “It is always important to know when something has reached its end. Closing circles, shutting doors, finishing chapters, it doesn’t matter what we call it; what matters is to leave in the past those moments in life that are over.”

Next week is the last instalment of this series. The Who-dun-it of the Thomas case will be told in an Appendix the week after that.


Food for Threadbare Gourmets


As we talked about our go-to puddings over a nice drop of affogato in our favourite restaurant, one of my closest friends asked me for the recipe for my hot chocolate sauce for ice-cream I was boasting about. This is for her.

It comes from good old Mrs Beeton, and my children loved it over ice-cream, while I serve it for guests now with pears baked in wine plus ice-cream.

Blend together a rounded dessert spoon of cornflour, two rounded dessertspoons of cocoa powder, and three rounded dessertspoons of sugar with a little cold water measured from half a pint. Boil the rest of the half pint of water and pour on the mixture. Pour into a saucepan and boil for two minutes, stirring all the time. Add three drops of vanilla and half an ounce of butter. Simple and  delicious.








Filed under consciousness, cookery/recipes, environment, Japan, self knowledge, The Sound of Water, Uncategorized, womens issues

Testing, testing, testing !

100_0214When Dr Christian Barnard, world-famous surgeon who invented the first heart transplant, decided to sue me for libel I was both intimidated and exhilarated.

It wasn’t an easy time for us at that point… after eight years of campaigning by my husband for the release of a man wrongly convicted of a double murder, now that  he was pardoned, we were embroiled in a Royal Commission and another battle with the police. In the previous eight years we had had our phones tapped, had our letters intercepted, and I awoke one night to find a plain clothes policeman in a grey suit and a stocking over his face at the foot of our bed, rummaging for stuff in my husband’s suit jacket.

Until then I had never locked the front door – so the children could always find their way in! My husband also had a price on his head, a lucrative contract put out by a worldwide drug ring he had been exposing in his newspaper for the last year. They too had penetrated our home when we were away on holiday, and switched off every appliance in the house, leaving a rotting deep freeze amongst other things, as a message to show us that they knew where we lived – even in remote country.

I had told my husband my car had a funny rattle, and when he checked he found that all the nuts on the front wheels had been loosened, so as to cause an accident. The children were frightened to answer the phone.  Luckily, the drug barons fell out and ended up murdering each other until the survivors were caught and convicted in England.

During this time I’d resigned from my job as women’s editor through ill health, but had continued to write my weekly column in the newspaper and in a magazine read by over half the (tiny) population. (I only mention this because it was significant)

It was an article about vivisection which had activated Christian Barnard. Among other horrors, I’d quoted his boast about making a two-headed dog to show the Russians he was as clever as them, and the heart-rending shrieks of the baboon when Barnard took his mate to use his heart for an operation. This article resurrected the moribund anti -vivisection society here and my husband and I became president and vice president until it was on its feet again.

The medical establishment were furious, because I’d also called into question every student having their own personal rat to kill by smashing it on the lab desk, and then dissect. A meeting was called at the university where the medical council discussed: “what to do about me”, as someone told me later. They felt that with my wide readership I had too much influence. How to shut me up?  They decided to alert Christian Barnard, with the result that he sent writs to my newspaper, Safe (Save Animals From Experimentation), and me.

When I got over the shock of opening this bullying letter demanding a large sum of money (which I didn’t have), or the ordeal of a court case, I was thrilled. Now we could bring vivisection out into the open. Maybe it would become an international scandal, since it involved the world famous surgeon. But to my chagrin, my newspaper paid up and apologised without even discussing it with me, and Safe – by then in other hands – paid up too – all the money going to the Heart Foundation – for more testing on animals, I supposed.

So that left me. I said to the family I’d rather go to prison than pay up if we lost the case. Two big tears oozed from my son’s eyes, as he contemplated his friends at school knowing his mother was in jail….  My solicitor wrote to Barnard’s men and did an unusual thing. He told them what our defence would be – listing Barnard’s boasts as they came straight from a TV interview and his autobiography. We never heard another word. So the vivisection issue just died.

This all happened thirty years ago, and it still goes on all over the world. I refuse to give to cancer appeals as I know that in this country anyway, their research includes testing on animals. I only buy certain brands of make-up – the ones which proclaim that they haven’t been tested on animals. The problem with vivisection is that no so-called scientist is going to talk himself out of a job, so they go on finding fresh ways of researching on animals, and fresh horrible ideas about how to test, and so it never ends.

We know that chimps have roughly ninety eight per cent of the same DNA as us, and we know that animals have a level of intelligence that ranges between that of a two year old and an eight year old – quite apart from their own special intelligences that we know nothing of.

Darwin himself said that animals have all the same emotions as people – they know joy and fear, depression and boredom, pain and happiness. We would never treat a two year old child the way we do animals, we would never think of torturing an eight year old in the name of science. But we have no compunction about doing this to animals.

Peter Singer, the great philosopher and animal rights campaigner who wrote the influential book:  ‘Animal Liberation’, refers to this treatment of animals as ‘speciesism’, like sexism and racism. He, like many of us, hopes that by the next generation this sort of discrimination will be as un-acceptable as those other forms of intolerance. Even today, so many people, especially the young, find this discrimination abhorrent. People for Ethical Treatment of Animals – Peta – is doing a great job of raising people’s awareness about the way we treat other creatures..

But there are, of course, a million other ways that man has devised to kill, maim, exploit, work to death and torture most varieties of creatures on this planet, including cutting off the fins of sharks, thus crippling them, and then dropping them back in the sea to drown; destroying the habitats of hundreds of species so they die out anyway, and perpetrating factory farming to name a few.

If we care, we can ‘put our money where our mouth is’ as they say in this country, and find ways of not using anything which is the result of animal testing. There is plenty of research these days to show that there are other effective ways of testing drugs rather than on animals, which is not fail-safe anyway. Thalidomide famously was tested on rabbits and found to be safe for them. But that didn’t make it safe for humans.

A year or so after my brush with Dr Barnard, a South African newspaper quoted him as saying he had given up vivisection. Asked why, he said he had heard the grief in the cries of a baboon for his mate who he had taken for an operation. There are some limits beyond which no civilised human being can go, he said.

Food for Threadbare Gourmets

This sauce served with vegetables is one of my favourite meals. I thinly slice a selection of vegetables – pumpkin, kumara/sweet potato, red and yellow peppers,  mushrooms, carrots, and either fry them in an electric fry pan, or bake them with olive oil drizzled over them. Meanwhile in a blender I put two cups of good pea-nut butter, a cup of olive oil, two whole lemons, four cloves of garlic , two teasp fish oil, a dessertsp or more of dried thyme, and a tablsp or more of brown sugar, plenty of freshly ground black pepper, and salt.

Whizz everything together, and add more thyme and sugar or salt to taste. If it’s too thick, add some water. I pile the vegetables onto a serving dish, and hand round the sauce. It keeps for a few days in the fridge. It’s delicious with crusty rolls and wine for lunch with the (metaphorical) girls, or for supper for the two of us.

Food for Thought

All of the larger- than-life questions about our presence here on earth and what gifts we have to offer are spiritual questions. To seek answers to these questions is to seek a sacred path.

Lauren Artress, Episcopal priest, counsellor, writer and founder of the Labyrinth spiritual movement. Walking the labyrinth in Chartres Cathedral has led to the building and walking of labyrinths all over the world.


Filed under animals/pets, cookery/recipes, food, great days, philosophy, spiritual, The Sound of Water, Thoughts on writing and life, Uncategorized